SeaShorts'18: Peeking Through A Partially Closed Window



Flipping through the SeaShorts'18 programme booklet, one will likely be intrigued by a section titled - somewhat enigmatically - The Window is Closed, Partially. Programmed by visual artist and filmmaker Chloe Yap, the section features a smattering of short films all loosely connected to themes of personal crisis and navigating identities. SINdie sits down with Chloe to tell you all about what you can see through partially closed windows.

What message do you seek to convey with the name and description of this section?

There really isn't any specific "message" I want to convey. I did preliminary selection with two other team members to go through around 300 submissions and these films were eventually rejected from the main competition selection; but we were moved by some of the films, so we thought it might be a waste to not show them. So my programme manager allowed me to do an "out of competition" programme so I just rolled with it and selected seven films that I felt were interesting explorations in filmmaking or have interesting thematic tendencies. For me, the films when put together - some more obvious than the others - there is a certain sensitivity or interest in perspectives; personal ones, how they view others or how others view them or even in the role of the camera, the identity of the filmmaker and the cinematic medium. I like that. I guess the name and description sort of plays on the idea of perspectives.

Compared to the other sections that are more literal in its focus, this section seems oriented to personal stories rather than broader social themes. Any reason for this programming choice?

I think we might have forgotten to appreciate the explorations in the medium itself and strayed too far to focus more on social or political themes. Maybe it’s a part of us to attempt to find meaning in our work, therefore injecting bigger purpose into our films, making issue and political films that would carry more importance - or depth. Because of this mindset, or dare I say trend, films that lean towards experimentation and personal discoveries tend to be overlooked or overshadowed to be lesser films. I chose the films for different reasons depending on each film; some films can be considered 'exercises', as described by my fellow preliminary selection team member, but I also like them because of that. I like them because of that spirit, that freedom.

Looking at the lineup, there is a black and white film, "Away". Do you think there is something monochrome films do better than coloured films?

I don't think so. Digital filmmaking and technological progress frees up more possibilities, so the treatment of black and white entirely depends on the filmmaker or the director. It can be an emotional decision, or an artistic decision... It can be very interesting to shoot in black and white, as there are many technical considerations to make. On the other hand when an image is stripped of colour, without the extra information, your eyes cannot help but notice details you wouldn't notice in a colour image.

Are there any trends that distinguish SEA film-making from films of other regions?

Hmm. I think we are more shy therefore we sort of make 'quieter' films maybe. Haha. On a different note, I think Southeast Asian films have a different path to get attention and make an impact with global audiences at large, to be able to be taken seriously artistically. It's an ongoing problem we're each trying to solve I think. But I think filmmakers are embracing the possibilities the region can offer. It's just a matter of time before filmmakers are confident in our own stories and our own aesthetics.

What are some of the challenges you've faced as a programmer? Any lessons learned?

It's very humbling to be able to make a programme. There weren’t any challenges that were specific to me in this programme because I didn't work as hard as the other programmers in the special programmes, I just 'salvaged' the films from the submissions that didn't make it to competition; as opposed to the other special programmers who had to find the films, get permissions, and even remaster old tapes or film reels.

But I did have to think and rethink what it means to 'programme' films for a festival, to arrange the films in some kind of order, and to frame them with a sort of collective theme or idea - not even sure if it's truly in line with the actual intentions of the filmmakers. And especially if you're selecting them for the competition categories. There were several films that I liked, especially from my country, that I couldn't select or make into a programme and that makes me second guess myself a lot. It sort of makes me think, sometimes, that maybe I'm not fully supporting my own country, or that I'm neglecting. Because I do feel responsible and conflicted, how does my taste matter? How can I actually help the progress of the craft of filmmaking? Perhaps this conflict comes from the fact that I am a filmmaker myself and I face a lot of rejection and sometimes question a kind of 'circle' mentality; and it's interesting (but also very weird) to be on the other side of the table.

But I learned that being a programmer is really more than that and it's important to stay in the right mindset. It's to be able to help channel the filmmakers' voice to the audience, give them a chance to be heard in a respectful way, to share and challenge the audience to listen to what they have to say. I'm learning much from the programmers in this festival, they feel lifted and inspired making their programmes, to share different types of talents, voices and ideas. The filmmakers selected in their programmes are very lucky.

If you had to describe your program in one word, what would it be?

Free.

Interested in what else showed at SeaShorts? Check out the full line-up hereSeaShorts Film Festival 2018 ran from 01 - 05 August. You can support the festival here.

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